Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.3.7 Str. 2.4.1 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.4.4

2.3.8

First, then, the Ethiopians next Egypt are actually separated into two divisions; one part being in Asia, the other in Libya, otherwise there is no distinction between them. But it was not on this account that Homer divided the Ethiopians, nor yet because he was acquainted with the physical superiority of the Indians, (for it is not probable that Homer had the slightest idea of the Indians, since, according to the assertion of Eudoxus, Euergetes was both ignorant of India, and of the voyage thither,) but his division rather resulted from the cause we formerly mentioned. We have shown that as for the alteration of Crates, it makes no difference whether it be read so or not. Posidonius, however, says that it does make a difference, and would be better altered into towards the descending [sun]. But in what can this be said to differ from towards the west, since the whole section of the hemisphere west of the meridian is styled the west, not only the mere semicircle of the horizon. This is manifested by the following expression of Aratus, Where the extremities of the west and east blend together. [Note]
Phænom. v. 61.
However, if the reading of Posidonius be preferable to that of Crates, any one may likewise claim for it a superiority over that of Aristarchus. So much for Posidonius. There are, however, many particulars relating to Geography, which we shall bring under discussion; others relating to Physics, which must be examined elsewhere, or altogether disregarded; for he is much too fond of imitating Aristotle's propensity for diving into causes, a subject which we [Stoics] scrupulously avoid, simply because of the extreme darkness in which all causes are enveloped.

CHAPTER IV. 2.4.1

POLYBIUS, in his Chorography of Europe, tells us that it is not his intention to examine the writings of the ancient geographers, but the statements of those who have criticised them,

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such as Dicæarchus, Eratosthenes, (who was the last of those who [in his time] had laboured on geography,) and Pytheas, by whom many have been deceived. It is this last writer who states that he travelled all over Britain on foot, and that the island is above 40,000 stadia in circumference. It is likewise he who describes Thule and other neighbouring places, where, according to him, neither earth, water, nor air exist, separately, but a sort of concretion of all these, resembling marine sponge, in which the earth, the sea, and all things were suspended, thus forming, as it were, a link to unite the whole together. It can neither be travelled over nor sailed through. As for the substance, he affirms that he has beheld it with his own eyes; the rest, he reports on the authority of others. So much for the statements of Pytheas, who tells us, besides, that after he had returned thence, he traversed the whole coasts of Europe from Gades to the Don. 2.4.2

Polybius asks, How is it possible that a private individual, and one too in narrow circumstances, could ever have performed such vast expeditions by sea and land? And how could Eratosthenes, who hesitates whether he may rely on his statements in general, place such entire confidence in what that writer narrates concerning Britain, Gades, and Iberia? says he, it would have been better had Eratosthenes trusted to the Messenian [Note] rather than to this writer. The former

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merely pretends to have sailed into one [unknown] country, viz. Panchæa, but the latter, that he has visited the whole of the north of Europe as far as the ends of the earth; which statement, even had it been made by Mercury, we should not have believed. Nevertheless Eratosthenes, who terms Euhemerus a Bergæan, gives credit to Pytheas, although even Dicæarchus would not believe him.

This argument, although even Dicæarchus would not believe him, is ridiculous, just as if Eratosthenes ought to take for his standard a writer whom Polybius is himself for ever complaining of. [Note]

The ignorance of Eratosthenes respecting the western and northern portions of Europe, we have before remarked. But both he and Dicæarchus must be pardoned for this, as neither of them were personally familiar with those localities. But how can one excuse Polybius and Posidonius? especially Polybius, who treats as mere hearsay what Eratosthenes and Dicæarchus report concerning the distances of various places; and many other matters, about which, though he blames them, he is not himself free from error. Dicæarchus states that there are 10,000 stadia from the Peloponnesus to the Pillars, and something above this number from the Peloponnesus to the recess of the Adriatic. [Note] He supposes 3000 stadia between the Peloponnesus and the Strait of Sicily; thus there would remain 7000 between the Strait of Sicily and the Pillars. [Note]

I will not inquire, says Polybius, whether the statement concerning the 3000 stadia is correct or not, but 7000 stadia

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is not the correct measure [from the Strait of Messina to the Pillars of Hercules], whether taken along the sea-shore, or right across the sea. The coast closely resembles an obtuse angle, one side reaching to the Strait of Sicily, the other to the Pillars, the vertex being Narbonne. Now let a triangle be constructed, having for its base a right line drawn through the sea, and its sides forming the aforementioned angle. The side reaching from the Strait of Sicily to Narbonne is above 11,200 stadia, while the other is below 8000. Now the greatest distance from Europe to Libya, across the Tyrrhenian Sea, [Note] is not above 3000 stadia, and across the Sea of Sardinia [Note] it is less still. But supposing that it too is 3000 stadia add to this 2000 stadia, the depth of the bay at Narbonne as a perpendicular from the vertex to the base of the obtuse- angled triangle. It will, then, be clear even to the geometrical powers of a child, that the entire coast from the Strait of Sicily to the Pillars, does not exceed by more than 500 stadia the right line drawn across the sea; adding to these the 3000 stadia from the Peloponnesus to the Strait of Sicily, the whole taken together will give a straight line [Note] above double the length assigned by Dicæarchus; and, according to his system, you must add in addition to these the stadia at the recess of the Adriatic.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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